FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

When the WTO Comes to Montreal

by PAUL BEAULIEU

Perhaps the first time most people heard of the World Trade Organization (WTO) was in November 1999, with a meeting of the WTO in Seattle accompanied by protests. The protests certainly made for some colourful media coverage, with much talk of ‘violent protests’ (little mention of violent police) and news headline catchphrases like “The Battle in Seattle”. But there was also, for the first time in North America, some serious discussions in the media about what the WTO is, and what it does. People began to note that the WTO can decide that health, environment, industrial and social policies adopted on our behalf, by our governments, are trade barriers that must be struck down. People in the United States learned, for example, about a WTO ruling against a U.S. law aimed at conserving endangered sea turtles- a ban on shrimp caught in nets without a turtle-exclusion devices.

Fast forward to 2003. In Montreal, a WTO mini-ministerial meeting has been hastily convened by Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew, for July 28-30, to prepare for this year’s big meeting in Cancun, Mexico. And, once again, protests are being planned in the hope that the resulting confrontation will put the WTO on the national agenda.

It shouldn’t have to be this way. Considering the importance we attach to our economy and to our public services, you’d think that a far reaching global agreement affecting the way we work and do business would have been discussed seriously what is supposed to be democratic society before we’d signed on to it. No such luck. The WTO came into existence in 1995, but how many people in North America had even heard of the WTO prior to the Seattle protests?

Since its 1995 inception, the WTO’s guiding principle has been that it’s unfair to make a company wanting to do business in another country adapt to that country’s requirements. Instead, the country must be made to adapt to the company’s requirements. Now Canada is negotiating with other countries on reducing ‘trade barriers’ on services. This means getting rid of foreign ownership limitations, local hiring requirements, and restrictions on profit repatriation and capital flight. In other words, transnational companies are to be given more power and fewer responsibilities – the ‘free market’ in the name of ‘free trade’.

The worst thing about WTO rules is how they lock us into this free market model of economic development. It’s one thing to elect a government that believes in free market policies. It’s quite another to be bound to such policies, so that electing a more interventionist government makes no difference. Who ever asked the citizens of Canada if they wanted to live under WTO rules? Who are the people who come up with these rules, and in whose interest? These are questions that need discussion. Instead, the government of Canada is embarking on another round of WTO negotiations, without consulting the people of Canada.

In such a context, protests against the WTO of the sort that will happen in Montreal July 28-30, are a messy, inconvenient necessity.

PAUL BEAULIEU is a Montreal-area theatrical activist working with Montreal Mobilization Against the WTO. He can be reached at: pinadeau@planet-save.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Steve Horn
What Do a Louisiana Pipeline Explosion and Dakota Access Pipeline Have in Common? Phillips 66
Brian Saady
Why Corporations are Too Big to Jail in the Drug War
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Peaceful Protest to Armed Uprising
Luke Meyer
The Case of Tony: Inside a Lifer Hearing
Binoy Kampmark
Adolf, The Donald and History
Robert Koehler
The Great American Awakening
Murray Dobbin
Canadians at Odds With Their Government on Israel
Fariborz Saremi
A Whole New World?
Joyce Nelson
Japan’s Abe, Trump & Illegal Leaks
Christopher Brauchli
Trump 1, Tillerson 0
Yves Engler
Is This Hate Speech?
Dan Bacher
Trump Administration Exempts Three CA Oil Fields From Water Protection Rule at Jerry Brown’s Request
Richard Klin
Solid Gold
Melissa Garriga
Anti-Abortion and Anti-Fascist Movements: More in Common Than Meets the Eye
Thomas Knapp
The Absurd Consequences of a “Right to Privacy”
W. T. Whitney
The Fate of Prisoner Simón Trinidad, as Seen by His U. S. Lawyer
Brian Platt
Don’t Just Oppose ICE Raids, Tear Down the Whole Racist Immigration Enforcement Regime
Paul Cantor
Refugee: the Compassionate Mind of Egon Schwartz
Norman Richmond
The Black Radical Tradition in Canada
Barton Kunstler
Rallying Against the Totalitarian Specter
Judith Deutsch
Militarism:  Revolutionary Mothering and Rosie the Riveter
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir Evoked a Lot More International Attention in the 1950s Than It Does Now
Adam Phillips
There Isn’t Any There There
Louis Proyect
Steinbeck’s Red Devils
Randy Shields
Left Coast Date: the Dating Site for the ORWACA Tribe
Charles R. Larson
Review: Bill Hayes’ “Insomniac City”
David Yearsley
White Supremacy and Music Theory
February 16, 2017
Peter Gaffney
The Rage of Caliban: Identity Politics, the Travel Ban, and the Shifting Ideological Framework of the Resistance
Ramzy Baroud
Farewell to Doublespeak: Israel’s Terrifying Vision for the Future
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail